How Long Until a Divorce Is Final in Florida?
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
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Although many couples want to finalize their divorces as fast as possible, couples in Florida cannot avoid the mandatory waiting periods and other requirements for divorce. The length of time is dependent on whether you can agree to the terms of the divorce with your spouse and whether or not you qualify for a simplified divorce. No matter the route you choose, you may only file for divorce in Florida if you or your spouse has lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing.
If you qualify for a simplified divorce, it may be the quickest route to finalize a divorce in Florida. You may only file for a simplified divorce if you and your spouse agree to get divorced, you do not have children, and you agree that neither spouse will receive alimony. You must reach an agreement as to how you will separate all marital property. To get a simplified divorce, you must submit a petition signed by both spouses, along with financial affidavits by both spouses. After you file the petition, the court will schedule a hearing for a date that is at least 20 days later. The court will officially dissolve the marriage at the hearing, provided that all information was properly submitted.
When couples do not qualify for a simplified divorce, you can still shorten the divorce process if the divorce is uncontested, meaning the couple agrees on the terms of divorce, including property division, alimony, parental responsibility and child support. You may come to an agreement with your spouse before or soon after the divorce petition is filed and submit the agreement to the court so it becomes part of the final judgment. Although you still have a 20-day waiting period in between filing and the hearing, uncontested divorces are often finalized in a matter of weeks.
If your spouse is completely unresponsive to the divorce petition and does not show up to any hearings, you may obtain a divorce by default, meaning the divorce is granted without input from your spouse. After filing the petition, if 20 days have passed and you have not received a response, you may file a motion for default with the court clerk. The court will schedule a hearing to consider your petition for default. If the judge signs the default petition, you will then have a final hearing to determine the terms of the divorce. You must send notices of both the default hearing and the final hearing to your spouse. Because default divorces also have a 20-day waiting period and you must attend two separate hearings, the entire process may take a few months to complete.
If the divorce is contested, the process will take a longer period of time because it will be up to the court to decide the terms of the divorce decree. Divorces are often contested because the couple cannot agree on alimony, parental responsibilities or related issues. With contested divorces, it may take the couple a considerable amount of time to go through the discovery process, which requires the spouses to exchange information about the case. Further, the court may order the couple to attend mediation or parenting courses prior to finalizing the divorce. Overall, a contested divorce may take anywhere from a few months to more than a year.
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."